MOTORISTS in Warrington have received a boost with Chancellor George Osborne announcing his intention to remove tolls on the new Runcorn Bridge for residents in Warrington – saving local drivers over £1,000 per year.
Welcoming the news former Warrington South MP David Mowat said:“The last Labour Government introduced these tolls and I’m delighted that the Chancellor has confirmed that the next Conservative Government will scrap Labour’s tax on motorists and save Warrington drivers over £1,000 every year.”
The chancellor has said he is to review the charges with a view to removing them for residents of Warrington and Chester West and Chester.
This could save Warrington motorists who regular use the Mersey crossing between Widnes and Runcorn well over £1,000-a-year.
But it has been dismissed as “an election stunt” by Warrington South Parliamentary candidate Nick Bent, who claims it has been made in response to his own campaign to get the tolls lifted.
Work started on the bridge project last year and it is due to be completed in the autumn of 2017, providing a brand new six lane bridge over the Mersey between Widnes and Runcorn, in addition to the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge.
It was the last Labour government that drew up the scheme and originally decided it should be paid for by tolls.
But Labour leader Ed Miliband has recently also pledged to “review” the tolls issue if elected.
Halton residents have already been promised toll-free use of the two bridges and Mr Osborne’s review will extend this to both Warrington and Cheshire West residents.
The decision to toll both the Mersey Gateway bridge and the existing Silver Jubilee bridge from 2017 was originally made in 2008. But Graham Evans, MP for nearby Weaver Vale since 2010, has also been campaigning for the Government to allow toll free access to both bridges.
Mr Evans said: “This is great news for hardworking commuters and residents. In July 2014 I helped secure toll free access to the bridges for Halton residents, and I’ve been lobbying hard for Cheshire West residents. This brings us one step closer.”
Meanwhile Bob Barr the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Warrington South has welcomed the Chancellor’s announcement.
“This is good news for those travelling to work to or from Warrington across the Mersey, however it isn’t really enough. So long as the crossing is tolled there is a danger that drivers not willing to pay will divert through Warrington’s already congested and underspecified roads.
If George Osborne is serious about a Northern Powerhouse he must look beyond his own constituency and Manchester and realise that the mid-Mersey area needs to be properly connected across both the river and the Ship Canal. Only that can unlock its economic potential.
We should also not forget that the Mersey crossing is an expensive PFI funded scheme dreamt up by Labour who committed to paying the high borrowing cost with tolls. Labour’s campaign to remove the tolls and the feeble promise of a “future review” do little to correct the original strategic error.”